Like Art Nouveau, Art Deco was an artistic movement, not limited to jewellery. It cultivated an ideology that is characterised by a celebration of the modern and mechanical. Like the Cubist art movement, Art Deco jewellery focuses on the relationship between form and function. Clean lines and geometry are dominant.
History of Jewellery: (1920s-1939) Art Deco
Monochrome became popular, with black enamel or onyx providing a sleek structure to rings, brooches and the increasingly popular collar clips and cigarette boxes. Just a artists embraced unorthodox materials, mixing media with collages, so jewellers experiments with mixing ‘high’ and ‘low’ materials. Coral and diamonds were placed side-by-sided or rock crystal was accented by sapphires or emeralds. The Art Deco celebrated the blurring between the traditional ‘Fine’ and the new category of ‘Costume’ jewellery. The Art Deco was a revolutionary period in jewellery.
The shifting pace of women’s lifestyles played an important role in the evolution of women’s fashion and adornment. With the First World War, women from all sections of society began working. The elaborate constructions of Edwardian jewellery became impractical and simpler forms were favoured in rings, earrings and bracelets.
Platinum became the primary metal used in jewellery. It’s strength allowed for minimum amounts of metal to support the stones. Thereby giving prominence to the stones that seem.
Inspiration for jewellery of this time was drawn both from the urban cityscape and the ‘ocean liner’ aesthetic favoured by architects such as Le Corbusier. The sleek sides of the ocean liner’s black hull was mimicked in the prominent use of onyx in Art Deco designs.
European jewellers including Cartier and Van Cleef and Arpels also looked beyond Europe for inspiration. Asia was a source of decorative motifs. Floral designs from Persian carpets or Japanese calligraphy were copied and set with colourful gemstones.
The Parisian jeweller, Raymond Templier (1891-1968) is noted in the Goldsmiths’ Journal to have said “As I walk in the streets I see ideas for jewellery everywhere, the wheels, the cars, the machinery of today”. Templier’s comment summaries the attitude of Art Deco jewellers. The designer sought inspiration from the every day object and scenery rather than looking back to the past. Templier has been heralded as an ‘Architect of the Jewel’.
Cartier thrived in the Art Deco period (1930-40s). Some of the Maison’s most iconic pieces were created during this time. Vanity Cases and smoking accessories, such cigarette case and lighters provided new forms for jewellers to experiment.
The 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes, held in Paris was the debut of the new ‘style moderne’.